The region's newest corridor planning initiative is walking the talk when it comes to community involvement.
The Powell-Division Transit and Development Project is including community members in a decision-making role on the project's steering committee, inviting transit riders, community organizations and neighborhood associations alongside elected city, county and regional officials.
The Powell-Division project is an effort to bring faster, more reliable transit to Gresham, East Portland and southeast Portland. Metro and partners hope to have a community-supported decision on transit type, route and station areas by March 2015 and construction potentially beginning by 2018.
Additionally, an integral part of the plan is community development surrounding future station locations.
"A decade ago in corridor planning, there would have been a steering committee with a strong technical staff, and it would have been strictly transportation planning," said Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, co-chair of the steering committee. "Now, it's more community focused."
Stacey pointed to Metro's history of learning from previous processes as part of the rationale for including community members on the steering committee, citing regional planning's growing trend of considering all aspects of development in large projects like Powell-Division, rather than focusing on transportation alone.
With a greater spotlight on local development, Stacey said, communities need to have a stronger presence at the table to ensure accurate representation of their needs and wants.
"The democratization of the Powell-Division planning process is the biggest symbol of how we've learned through previous initiatives," he said.
Councilor Shirley Craddick represents Gresham and parts of East Portland and serves as the committee's other chair. Craddick agrees that there is inherent value in having community voices on the steering committee.
"The very people using the system will be the ones helping to guide it," Craddick said. "The people who will be impacted are the people you want at the table."
Devin Carr is one such committee member. A freshman at Portland State University and Portland Community College, Carr, age 18, knows the entire TriMet system by memory. He's studying civil engineering, hopes to work in public transit in the future, and manages his own website with ambitious visions of transit's potential in Oregon.
Carr lives at the border of Portland and Gresham, in between Powell and Division – right in the heart of the study area.
Carr, whose senior project at Ace Academy involved studying the transit system from 82nd Avenue eastward, says his interest in public transportation has been life-long.
"Transit as a whole in my eyes is a good thing," Carr said. "It gets you from Point A to Point B in a little more eco-friendly manner. Look at 2 people in a car, versus 70 in a bus."
Carr hopes that the Powell-Division project will result in higher-capacity transit with fewer transfers, helping people get around faster. He pointed out that right now, although it's twice as expensive to drive taking a whole-cost perspective, it's also, in most cases, twice as fast.
The Powell-Division study area already has high transit ridership. There are over 17,000 trips a day on the lines that currently run on Powell Boulevard and Division Street. Enough people get on and off at 82nd Ave. and Division in a week to fill Portland's soccer stadium.
"Sometimes coming home from PSU, the bus is full, and we're passing people's stops," Carr said. "These high-traffic areas need higher-capacity, higher-speed service."
Some of Carr's non-elected counterparts on the steering committee include representatives from the growing Portland Community College's Southeast campus, the Gresham Coalition of Neighborhood Associations and Fred Meyer.
The direct inclusion of education, neighborhood and business interests on the steering committee provides the advantage of already-established connections in communities, said Stacey. Additionally, it provides community stakeholders the opportunity to keep local interests and needs front and center.
Those involved hope the intimate collaboration between planners, governments and community will be beneficial to all sides.
"The expectation is, by inclusion of the community on the steering committee, there will be a more community-supported outcome," said Dana Lucero, public involvement specialist with Metro and the Powell-Division project.
The Metro Council appointed the Powell-Division steering committee members on January 16. The committee will host a community gathering at 6 p.m. Feb. 27 at the PCC Southeast Center's Great Hall, and is expected to have its first meeting in March, which will be open to the public.
- Councilor Shirley Craddick, Metro, co-chair
- Councilor Bob Stacey, Metro, co-chair
- Trell Anderson, Catholic Charities
- John Bildsoe, Gresham Coalition of Neighborhood Associations
- Lori Boisen, Division-Midway Alliance
- Devin Carr, Student and transit rider
- Matt Clark, Johnson Creek Watershed Council
- Bill Crawford, Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Coalition
- Representative Shemia Fagan, Oregon State Legislature
- Heidi Guenin, Upstream Public Health
- Jessica Howard, President, Portland Community College Southeast
- Nicole Johnson, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon
- Kem Marks, East Portland Neighborhood Office and East Portland Action Plan
- Neil McFarlane, TriMet
- Commissioner Diane McKeel, Multnomah County
- Melinda Merrill, Fred Meyer
- Diane Noriega, Board Chair, Mount Hood Community College
- Commissioner Steve Novick, City of Portland
- Raahi Reddy, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon and University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center
- Councilor Lori Stegmann, City of Gresham
- Jason Tell, Oregon Department of Transportation
- Matt Wand, East Metro Economic Alliance